The suspects, all members of the DHKP/C, designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States as well as Turkey, were acquitted in February 2008 in a highly controversial ruling handed down by an appeals court in Antwerp, which overturned an earlier decision sentencing the suspects to imprisonment. But months later, the Belgian Court of Cassation rejected the acquittals, paving the way for a retrial. In its annulment ruling, the court said the defendants could be tried in Belgium for terrorist activities in other countries. It also defined the DHKP/C as “a terrorist organization, criminal organization and a gang.”
The appeals court in Brussels, which began the retrial process in May, ruled on Wednesday that the crimes committed by the defendants in Belgium were not “terror activities,” the Anatolia news agency reported. Instead of calling the defendants members of a terrorist organization, the court used a lighter phrase, “gang,” as it didn’t find evidence provided by the prosecutor supporting its accusations against the defendants sufficient, Anatolia said. The agency noted that the defendants at the courthouse in Brussels applauded the ruling.
Fehriye Erdal and Kaya Saz were each handed a two-year deferred prison sentence, while Musa Asoğlu, described as “the gang’s leader,” was given a three-year deferred prison sentence, in light of the time they had already spent under arrest.
Bahar Kimyongür, Şükriye Akar Özordulu and Zerrin Sarı were acquitted by the court, which didn’t take guns and documents possessed by the defendants into account, Anatolia reported.
Erdal, convicted in absentia, is a fugitive wanted in Turkey as the main suspect in the 1996 assassination of businessman Özdemir Sabancı. Erdal was arrested in Belgium in 1999, and she was later sentenced to four years in prison for relatively minor crimes she committed in that country. But Erdal, who was supposed to have been under house arrest in an undisclosed location in Belgium, disappeared just before the ruling was announced. She has been at large since then.